05/20/17 — Sheriff's office warns people to practice caution when selling items on Facebook, Craigslist

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Sheriff's office warns people to practice caution when selling items on Facebook, Craigslist

By Ethan Smith
Published in News on May 20, 2017 6:00 PM

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Donovan Dorelle Dewitt

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Paul Johnson

The Wayne County Sheriff's Office is warning people to practice caution when selling items on the Facebook Marketplace or on Craigslist in the wake of an incident of fraud that occurred in March.

The warning stems from a Facebook Marketplace sale that went awry resulting in the actual victim of the fraud helping authorities in the apprehension of the two alleged perpetrators.

The victim arranged a meeting at the Food Lion in Princeton with Paul Johnson Jr., 47, of 802 Pou St., so he could sell his 2002 Honda CR125 dirt bike after advertising it was for sale on Facebook, according to a sheriff's office press release.

After that meeting fell through, the men arranged to meet at a location on U.S. 70, according to the release.

When they met, the details of the sale were firmed up, according to the release.

The release said when the transaction was made, a man later identified as Donovan Dorelle Dewitt, 30 of 604-C E. Holly St., gave the man a bag containing the cash for the dirt bike.

Except the money was counterfeit, according to the release.

The release said while the victim was looking at the cash, Dewitt and Johnson loaded the dirt bike onto a truck without strapping it down or closing the tailgate and sped off, which caused the man to become suspicious.

He examined the cash closer and found it to be counterfeit, the release said.

The man tried to follow Dewitt and Johnson, but lost them.

The release said the man was then able to find an address for Johnson and called law enforcement as he was driving to Johnson's residence to report the fraud.

While he was on the phone with authorities he noticed Johnson driving the same truck on Ash Street he'd seen him in earlier, continued to follow him and kept law enforcement up to date on Johnson's location, according to the release.

A short time later, Johnson wrecked his truck at Leslie and Chestnut streets.

Johnson and a female ran from the wreck but were apprehended by officers, the release said.

The man identified Johnson as one of the men who had defrauded him, and then turned the counterfeit money over to law enforcement, according to the release.

Police found additional counterfeit money in Johnson's truck, the release said.

The case was turned over to Detective Lt. Tom Flores.

Warrants were then taken out on Johnson and Dewitt.

Johnson was arrested on April 5 and Dewitt on April 4. Both were charged with one count of felony larceny, one count of felony obtaining property by false pretenses, possessing five or more counterfeit instrument and forgery of an instrument.

They were both put in the Wayne County Detention Center under a $12,000 secured bond.

"The Sheriff's Office would like to advise those selling or buying from sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace (or the numerous "Facebook Yard Sale" sites) that they can ask those they're conducting business with to meet them at a law enforcement facility parking lot," according to a press release from the sheriff's office.

"If the individual is not willing to meet you in a parking lot of a law enforcement facility this may be a clue for you not to conduct your business with them. At a minimum, you should insist that a seller/purchaser meet you in a public place, preferably one with video surveillance."